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Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senator John Warner in Tysons Corner, Virginia

March 08, 1990

Thank you all very much. My introduction to rap. John Warner, thank you for that introduction. [Laughter] And you did say Washington Post. [Laughter] And to Senator Laxalt, my old friend -- boy, do we miss him in the United States Senate, I'll tell you. But I'm delighted he's here with us tonight. And I want to pay my respects to -- I see Congressman Bateman and Congressman Parris. Somebody told me Congressman Slaughter was here. We have a great Virginia delegation, incidentally, in the House. Secretaries Derwinski and Lujan were supposed to be here, and I hope they are someplace. And I'm delighted that they are. We've got a good Cabinet, too, and I'm proud of both of them, both former Members of the United States Congress.

Our vice chairman of our Republican National Committee, Jeanie Austin, is over here. And I'm delighted to see her, and I hope you'll tell Lee Atwater that I'm wishing him all the best when you see him on Monday. I think he'll be going back to work.

I want to pay my respects to Committeewoman Traywick, Marshall Coleman -- an old friend. I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the members of the Redskins that were here earlier, but I was delighted to see all good candidates for the Secret Service these days, I think. [Laughter] Giants.

And Moe Bandy -- that John introduced you to -- he and Barbara and I, along with Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle, traveled all through Illinois and Iowa campaigning, and I am grateful to him, and he's a wonderful American. Besides that, he's a fellow Texan, so I've got to brag on him. But, Moe, thank you very, very much.

And it's great to be back in the heart of America -- at least two blocks outside the beltway -- [laughter] -- and to return, though, to one of America's fastest growing areas, certainly Virginia's. I discount the rumors that Tysons Corner will soon be changed to Buster Douglas Corner. [Laughter]

But, nevertheless, we're here to salute Virginia's great Senators. You know, John is Virginia's senior elected statewide official. But more than that, he's in what I think of as the Virginia tradition, and he mirrors that superb mix of qualities that makes Virginians second to none. The first of these qualities, and Paul touched on it, is honor. As Casey Stengel would say, you can look it up. Virginia boasts a tradition of conscience and public honesty, public integrity. From Patrick Henry to our beloved friend Lewis Powell, the record is clear: Virginians ask and get integrity from their public officials.

Let me share a story -- and again, Paul touched on it, and let me elaborate -- that illustrates that tradition. Happened at the Republican convention in Richmond in 1978 -- four men vying for the GOP Senate nomination, and no one could get a majority. Many of you in the room were there, I know, as delegates, and I was following it very closely. And late Saturday night, one ballot following another, and finally about 11:30 p.m., before the deciding ballot, an aide suggested an idea to John. "Mr. Warner," he said, "these are principled delegates. A lot of them won't participate on a Sunday, and a good number of them aren't backing you. Just filibuster, just wait until midnight." And John's response, I think, in the great Virginia tradition I referred to, spoke rather eloquently about his character. He said, "I'd rather lose the nomination than win it that way."

And you know the rest. He did lose that nomination. He promptly endorsed the winner, Dick Obenshain, that we all remember later lost his life in a terrible accident. And the party then turned to John, and he achieved an upset victory in just 11 weeks of campaigning. First in defeat, and then in victory, he was a symbol of Virginia at its best. It is absolutely essential that he remain in the United States Senate.

Even Virginians who supported others on the other side in '78 are backing John. Honor is one reason. And another is a second quality which this State has cherished throughout its history -- experience. Experience almost really unrivaled in the United States Senate. Ask anyone, John Warner is among the top in terms of being a respected Senator. Pick any issue. Invariably, he's there with calm talk and reasoned thought. And there's a word for that, and it's the third quality which makes John such a superb public servant: the wisdom that will be so crucial to the 1990's.

Nowhere is this sagacity more evident than in foreign policy. And nowhere could that wisdom be more important. Five weeks ago I talked in the State of the Union message about an idea called America. Well, that idea called America is the idea of democracy. And around the world, through what I've called the Revolution of '89, that idea has allowed brave men and women to counter bayonets and conquer barbed wire. The Hungarian playwright Imre Madach once wrote a work entitled, "The Tragedy of Man." And today, we celebrate the victory of man. Look at Berlin, where a wall is falling, and Panama and Romania, where tyrants fell. Look at Poland and Czechoslovakia and Nicaragua or, yes, at the events of just 2 days this week.

Who could have dreamt it? On Monday, Romanians toppling a statue of Lenin that had stood in a Bucharest square for 30 years. And in the Soviet Union last Sunday and over the past few months, another sight that even Ripley wouldn't believe: that nation's first multicandidate elections at the local or republic level. And think of it: Communist candidates accepting the will of the popular ballot, a ballot which included, incidentally, independent candidates. And even in Moscow, totalitarianism is on the wane because of a dynamic Soviet leader willing, as Lincoln said, "to think anew." And because we have been resolute, liberty is on the march, for a strong America is an America at peace.

And John Warner is encouraging peace as the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he's helping arms control get done, but done right. John is one of the few Members of the Senate who once negotiated an executive national security agreement with the Soviets. And I'm looking to him to help guide new treaties and new budgets through this new decade of unprecedented change. But our administration has still other priorities because change here at home is just as important as change abroad.

And the first -- John referred to it with his vote when he summarily dismissed his Senators. I've never seen so many Senators told to do something and then do it. [Laughter] I've got to find out the formula. But the first is the environment. And last week, we reached an agreement in principle with the Senate leaders on the first rewrite of the Clean Air Act in over a decade, to cut urban smog and acid rain and air toxics. And John helped negotiate that deal. And like any northern Virginian, he knows that less traffic congestion is needed for clean air.

And in that spirit, earlier today Sam Skinner, our Secretary of Transportation, presented me with our National Transportation Policy. And I'm proud to say that among its many parts will be a strategy to build roads and streamline traffic, and something we especially need in northern Virginia: more flexibility in how Federal transportation funds are spent. Only then can we win the daily battle against gridlock, crashes, and bumper-to-bumper conditions. And as a guy said to me, "It gets worse after you leave your driveway." Think about it. [Laughter] I'll repeat it. [Laughter] No, I won't. [Laughter]

Another administration priority is the elderly, and John, as you know -- most of you, his close friends know -- serves on the Special Committee on Aging. And I need him to help stop those who would mess around with Social Security.

And for the less elderly, I need him as Senator to support our bill to boost child-care choice through tax incentives, not Federal meddling in child care across this country. And though Barbara and I are veterans in the field -- a personal note -- last month John had the same child-care privilege I've enjoyed. He became a grandfather.

Finally, two priorities concern Americans of every age. One is education, and the other -- you know what I'm going to say, because it's a national priority -- the fight against crime and drugs. In January, I announced the 1990 National Drug Control Strategy, Phase II of the drug policy that we unveiled last year. We're asking Congress to spend over $10.5 billion in fiscal '91 for education, treatment, interdiction, and enforcement, about a 69-percent increase just since I have taken office.

And John supports this strategy, just as he supports such Phase II steps as an expansion of the death penalty for those drug kingpins. And our budget request to increase Federal assistance to States and localities has his support. Let others soft-pedal the need to be hard on crime. I say, as Virginians do: If you do crime, you'll do time. And we intend to take back the streets. We must be successful in the name of our young people of this country.

And at the same time, I hope you know how interested we all are in education. We've got to take back our schools. And last fall, I convened an unprecedented event: this nation's first education summit, appropriately held at the University of Virginia. And UVA's founder, Thomas Jefferson, once said simply, "I cannot live without books." And so, we met, as Jefferson would have wanted, to find new ways to propel America's love of learning. And from that summit arose the education goals the Nation's Governors and I announced recently -- unanimous approval by the Nation's Governors. And among them, we must see that every student in America starts ready to learn -- and I'm talking about Head Start and great emphasis and great increase in Head Start -- and that each school has an environment where kids can learn, and that means making every school drug-free. These are goals for the year 2000. Our graduation rate must be no less than 90 percent. And we want U.S. students to be first in the world in math and science by the year 2000.

Like Jefferson, John knows that education is America's most enduring legacy and, moreover, that to preserve it we must give our all, as he did during three separate times of war and now does in time of peace.

Let me close then, as I began, with a story, this tale about giving your all. Eleven years ago last month, as Virginia's newly elected Senator, John was scheduled to give the annual reading of George Washington's farewell address. A snowstorm hit Washington, the worst since 1922. The city was paralyzed. Not our Senator -- he put on his boots, began the long walk from his home to the Capitol, stopping to push stalled cars and finally hitching a ride to the Hill on a tractor still here as a part of a protest by farmers. [Laughter] And to John, such tenacity was all in the line of duty. He figured if George Washington could make it to Valley Forge, a freshman Senator could certainly appear. And after 3 hours in the cold, he did appear. And others might not have thought it was very important, but he did, motivated by patriotism and respect for the traditions in the United States Senate. And that day was just one of many that he has made his friends proud.

And so, let's roll up our sleeves, keep in the Senate a man whose honor, experience, and wisdom have so enriched this very special Commonwealth in which you all are privileged to live. God bless you, and thank you very much. I know I speak for Barbara, too, when we said, John, if you need a little extra campaign work, call the White House. We're ready. It is national priority that this man be returned to the Senate.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:13 p.m. in the ballroom at the Sheraton Premier Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to National Republican Committeewoman Flo Traywick and former Virginia gubernatorial candidate J. Marshall Coleman.

George Bush, Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senator John Warner in Tysons Corner, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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